Chile and its new Constitution: the challenges of the 155 conventionalists that will re-found the institutions after the social outbreak

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The 155 conventions that will draft the new Constitution of Chile will begin meeting next Sunday amid strong expectations, as they will make history by completely redefining the institutional functioning of the country as a result of the serious political and social crisis that broke out in 2019.

The date has a symbolic charge, since that day marks 210 years since the installation of the first National Congress. This Constitution, in addition, will replace the one that currently governs and that was proclaimed in 1980, under the dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet.

The process has multiple new seasonings, since It will be the first Magna Carta in the world written by a Convention that will have an equal membership of men and women. Therefore, from now on it is anticipated that a feminist stamp will be imposed on it.

Diversity is also present, since eight of the 155 conventionalists represent the LGTBIQ community, while the indigenous peoples, who for the first time will be recognized at the constitutional level, have 17 seats.

On the other hand, this body will break the stereotype that Chile had of being considered one of the most conservative countries in the region, since the Constitution will be written mostly by feminist, communist and leftist or center-left politicians and activists.

This was decided by the voters on May 15 and 16, when they elected the conventional ones. The result was a failure for the right, which barely reached 37 seats, compared to the 53 that the left parties won and the 48 that were added by the independent candidates who, in their vast majority, are militants of progressive forces and participated in the elections. already mythical social protests of 2019 against President Sebastián Piñera. The list is completed by the 17 conventions that represent indigenous peoples.

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The 155 conventionals will assume their positions in a ceremony that will be held on Sunday morning at the Congress headquarters, although their work is scheduled to be carried out in the Pereira Palace, a historic building located in Santiago that has already been prepared for this process.

The first decision they must take is the election of the presidency and vice-presidency of the body, as well as the two people who will make up the Technical Secretariat.

Until now, from the sectors on the left, the strongest candidate to preside over the Constituent Convention is Elisa Loncon, a renowned Mapuche, academic, linguist and defender of indigenous peoples. The right has not yet publicly proposed anyone, although it lacks the votes to impose any of its candidates.

Along with these appointments, they will also have to design the regulations for their operation, which includes the division of commissions and who will head them.

The conventional ones, who will receive an average monthly salary of 2.5 million Chilean pesos (about 3,500 dollars), have a period of nine months to complete the new Constitution, which can only be extended for another three. That is The Magna Carta will have to be drawn up no later than early July 2022.

Later, it will be handed over to the president, who will no longer be Piñera, but his successor, who will be elected in the next general elections on November 21 and who will take office on March 11 of next year.

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With the constitutional proposal in hand, the new president will call a plebiscite that will be held within 60 days after its convocation and in which the vote will be mandatory.

In the event that the majority of the citizens endorse the initiative of the conventional, the president will summon Congress to promulgate and swear the new Constitution, which will enter into force 10 days after being published in the Official Gazette. According to these forecasts, Chile could have a new Magna Carta in the last quarter of 2022.

On the contrary, if the proposal of the conventional ones is rejected by majority of votes in the plebiscite, the Constitution of 1980 will continue to govern.


Once they begin to deliberate, each of the articles of the new Constitution must be approved with at least two-thirds of the votes, that is, by 102 conventional votes, which from the outset requires the search for consensus.

In the design of the commissions, the thematic priorities of the conventional ones will be clear, although in general terms A comprehensive transformation is anticipated in the operation of the Chilean State.

Several of the conventionalists have already warned that their objective is for the Constitution to have a strong imprint of social rights that are committed to equality, which until now has been one of the great shortcomings in the South American country. That is why there will be discussions to guarantee free health and education, rights in which neoliberal policies favored privatization.

It will also be discussed the redefinition of Chile as a plurinational state, since despite the fact that 13% of its population belongs to some indigenous people, they have never been recognized. This will be one of the fundamental changes, since a historical reparation is expected that recognizes their right to occupy their territories, protect their natural resources and practice their languages ​​and cultures.

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On the other hand, there are questions about the presidential system that grants a centralized power to the head of state, for which it has already been raised the possibility of creating the figure of prime minister.

With regard to the Legislative Power, one of the possibilities is that the Congress, which currently consists of two chambers (deputies and senators), becomes a unicameral parliament. Regarding the Judicial Power, the majority of the conventional ones are committed to a comprehensive transformation.

But the positions, the proposals and the concrete definitions that will completely change the life of Chilean society will only be known as soon as the conventional ones assume their positions and begin to deliberate as part of a process that Latin America will closely follow.

Cecilia Gonzalez

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